This town’s new mayor and two newest commissioners didn’t waste any time putting their stamp on the town’s political leadership.
Newly-installed mayor Ginna Gray broke a 2-2 tie to appoint Jason Joyner to fill the remaining two years on Gray’s term as a town commissioner.
The vacancy arose earlier Monday night when Gray became just the second woman in Wendell’s history to lead the local government.
Also taking their oath of office for the first time were newly-elected commissioners Ben Carroll and David Myrick.
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In the board’s first act of business, Caroll nominated Joyner to fill Gray’s unexpired term.
Commissioner Jon Lutz nominated Sam Laughery, whose term on the board of commissioners had expired earlier in the evening.
Gray asked commissioners to vote on Joyner’s nomination and Lutz and Commissioner John Boyette voted against the nomination, while Myrick and Carroll voted in favor. Gray cast the tie-breaking vote to give the seat to Joyner.
Joyner, 28, is a lobbyist who represents a handful of clients before the General Assembly, including the N.C. Vaping Council, the N.C. Association of Hospitality Executives and the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics of NC.
He told commissioners prior to his appointment Monday that, considering his background, he had never considered serving local government from the elected side.
“I never imagined myself on that side of the table,” Joyner said.
A native of Rocky Mount, Joyner graduated from Appalachian State University in 2008 with a degree in political science and an emphasis in town administration and city and county management. He minored in planning. Joyner moved to Wendell in 2012 the week before he got married.
“I was from Nash County and my wife was from Asheboro, so we made the decision to move to Wake County because it was centrally located,” Joyner said. “After we made that decision, we looked around and decided we wanted to live in Wendell.”
Filling out the political profile
Joyner did not vote in either of the last two local elections, including last November’s election which elevated Gray to the mayor’s seat, creating the vacancy he now fills. He was non-committal on a number of issues, including his desire to run for the full four-year term when he completes the last two years of Gray’s unexpired term.
“My interest was to fill a two-year vacancy,” Joyner told Boyette Monday night. “One thing I’ve learned in my work is that I would never want to commit to anything two years in advance.”
In an interview Tuesday, Joyner says he hasn’t yet developed a position on how growth should take place in Wendell.
Some voters would like to see larger homes built on larger lots and fewer subsidized housing units constructed.
Others argue that development needs to be dense to attract other amenities, such as mixed use developments and mass transit.
Joyner says he sees the merits and the flaws in both arguments. “I don’t have a predetermined philosophy. I think I will understand what someone is talking about when they say (how) they think it should be,” Joyner said.
Joyner also espouses a limited approach to boosting downtown. “That has got to be a community-driven thing. No board is going to mandate and regulate growth. The chamber can help spur that. Rotary, civic and business leaders can help with that. Generally, government has to allow that to happen and provide some assistance as it’s needed,” Joyner said.
A relative newcomer to Wendell, Joyner said he knew Carroll prior to throwing his hat into the ring for the commissioner’s seat. “This all happened really very fast. Maybe a week or two ago, I started talking to some of the commissioners and, of course, I talked to my wife and my business partner about it,” Joyner said. “They seemed to feel like I had a unique set of skills to offer.”
Carroll, who nominated Joyner for the seat, pointed to his qualifications in explaining why he supported Joyner. “If it came down to it, I would be willing to give up my seat on the board so he could take it. We’re looking for people to serve for the betterment of Wendell,” Carroll said.
Though Carroll touted Joyner’s qualifications, commissioners never got a chance to vote on Laughery, the other nominee to fill the seat. Laughery just completed a four-year term on the town board, during which he served as the town’s representative on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Laughery had also served a term on the town’s planning board before jumping into elective politics.
Joyner said he’s looking forward to being part of an effort to make the town a better place. “We’ve got a good town. We didn’t get here by not having leaders that were pushing us in the right direction,” Joyner said.